IAEA urges Iran to explain uranium particles at undeclared site

Iran's Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Gharib Abadi, waits for the start of the IAEA board of governors meeting at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019. (AP)
Updated 21 November 2019

IAEA urges Iran to explain uranium particles at undeclared site

  • IAEA said in a report last week that its inspectors had "detected natural uranium particles of anthropogenic origin at a location in Iran

VIENNA: The UN nuclear watchdog on Thursday urged Iran to explain the presence of uranium particles at an undeclared site, as a landmark deal aimed at curbing Tehran's atomic activities threatens to collapse.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a report made public last week that its inspectors had "detected natural uranium particles of anthropogenic origin at a location in Iran not declared to the agency".
The agency's acting head Cornel Feruta said IAEA and Iranian officials would meet in Tehran next week to discuss the matter, adding that the UN body had not received any additional information.
"The matter remains unresolved... It is essential that Iran works with the agency to resolve this matter promptly," he told IAEA member states at a meeting of the agency's board of governors.
A diplomatic source told AFP that the IAEA would send a high-ranking technical delegation to Iran next week.
The particles are understood to be the product of uranium which has been mined and undergone initial processing, but not enriched.
While the IAEA has not named the site in question, diplomatic sources have previously said the agency asked Iran about a site in the Turquzabad district of Tehran where Israel has alleged secret atomic activity in the past.
Sources say the IAEA took samples from the site in the spring and that Iran has been slow in providing answers to explain the test results.
The 2015 deal between Iran and world powers has been faltering since last year when the United States pulled out and started to reinstate punishing sanctions on Tehran, leaving the other signatories struggling to salvage the agreement.
Over the past few months, Iran has breached several parts of the deal it signed with the US as well as Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, in which it committed to scaling back its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.
But Britain, France and Germany have said they are extremely concerned by Iran's actions in stepping up its uranium enrichment and other breaches.
Enrichment is the process that produces fuel for nuclear power plants but also, in highly extended form, the fissile core for a warhead.
On Monday, the IAEA confirmed Iran's stock of heavy water for reactors has surpassed the 130-tonne limit set under the agreement.
Heavy water is not itself radioactive but is used in nuclear reactors to absorb neutrons from nuclear fission.
Heavy water reactors can be used to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons as an alternative to enriched uranium.
The IAEA has also said one of its inspectors was briefly prevented from leaving Iran, calling her treatment "not acceptable".
Iran has cancelled the inspector's accreditation, saying she triggered a security check at the entrance gate to the Natanz enrichment plant last month.
The IAEA has disputed the Iranian account of the incident, without going into details.


US to announce 4,000-troop drawdown from Afghanistan: media

Updated 11 min 18 sec ago

US to announce 4,000-troop drawdown from Afghanistan: media

  • There are 13,000 US troops currently in Afghanistan
  • US President Donald Trump has previously indicated he wants to wind down US military entanglements abroad where possible

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration will announce as early as this week plans to withdraw around 4,000 troops from Afghanistan, US media reported.
Talks between the United States and the Taliban resumed a week ago as the parties sought a path to reduce violence or even reach a cease-fire.
They were paused by Washington on Thursday, however, after an attack by the militant group near a key US air base north of Kabul that left two civilians dead and dozens injured.
There are 13,000 US troops currently in Afghanistan.
NBC on Saturday cited three current and former US officials as saying the Trump administration intends to announce the drawdown of 4,000 troops from Afghanistan.
Two of those said some of the troops would be redeploying early, while others would not be replaced when they end their term.
CNN cited one official in the Trump administration as saying the announcement on a drawdown could happen this week, but that the “timing remains in flux.”
According to a draft agreement from September — reached after years of negotiations — the Taliban would be required to commit to certain security measures, agree to talks with the Afghan government and promise a reduction of violence in exchange for US troop withdrawal.
US President Donald Trump insisted last month on the need for a cease-fire and made a surprise visit to Bagram on November 28 to celebrate Thanksgiving with troops and meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Trump has previously indicated he wants to wind down US military entanglements abroad where possible.